Monday, March 30, 2009

Cinque Terre, Addendum

Since Caroline saw fit to post a picture on Facebook of me sleeping on the train, I now feel the freedom to do likewise. Helen is trying not to smile but Caroline is legitimately out.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Cinque Terre, Part 2

Here are some more highlights of my trip to Cinque Terre (pron. cheenkwey terreh). John just corrected me--on the last post, I had Cinque Terra, but since it's five lands, it's Terre, with an 'e'.

Here's me and Manarola, the second town we visited. This was Caroline's favorite town and it was nice. We stayed in a very clean hostel there, plus it was not so big that it seemed touristy but it was large enough to have a choice of restaurants.

The food to get in Cinque Terre is seafood, but since I'm not a huge seafood fan, I went for the other local favorite. Cinque Terre is in the region of Liguria, which is famous for its pesto. Here's my pesto--it was good, although I was never able to identify the slices of green produce that they put on top. It wasn't avocado and it wasn't lime. Anyone have any other green suggestions?

Here're Caroline and Helen enjoying their meal: Caroline had salmon ravioli and Helen had lobster linguini. Reports were favorable.

The next day we took a short train to the third town: Corniglia. This was the smallest of the towns--no streets were wider than the one pictured here! But it was very charming and the place we went to for breakfast had only locals in it.

From Corniglia to Vernazza (town #4), we took the trail. The guidebooks said that it would be long, around an hour and a half, but they didn't say how much exercise we'd get! The trail was not for the faint of heart, as some of the pictures will indicate.

Here's Helen showing off Corniglia in the background.

For those of you who have recently had knee-surgery, here's a good place to test out your new joints. Good thing we weren't wearing flip-flops.

And the view at the end was worth it! This is Vernazza.

We took a train to the fifth town, Monterosso. This is the biggest town of the Cinque Terre and also the most touristy--probably because it's the only one with a sandy beach.

Don't know what this statue is of, but it's impressive.

Monterosso is divided by a jetty on which is an old stone tower. But the coolest part about it was the bunker mounted on the side of the cliff, probably from World War II--there were a couple more bunkers that I could see along the coastline.

Here's a shot (no pun intended) of Monterosso from inside the bunker. There wasn't much inside--just some trash and beer bottles. Look how thick the cement walls are.

Finally, the train ride home had its own little bit of adventure. It was a four hour ride on a regional train, which meant no dining car. Since our only lunch had been a slice of pizza and gelato, we were getting pretty hungry round about seven thirty. Caroline was feeling 'poorly' and needed sustenance, so I decided to take my future in my own hands and get us some food. I timed the stops: the train stayed for approximately one minute at each platform. So, the next time the train pulled up to a platform with an accessible vending machine, I jumped off the train, ran to the machine, pushed the buttons for the first snack I saw, then raced back to the train with fifteen seconds to spare! Ta da! Crackers for the rest of the journey. I think Caroline and Helen thought I was a little reckless. . .

Well, that's it for the Cinque Terre. Further bulletins as events warrant!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Cinque Terra, Part 1

Late last week, our friend Caroline told me that she and her sister were planning on going to the Cinque Terra for two days and asked me if I wanted to come. For those of you who haven't made a study of Northern Italian vacation spots, the Cinque Terra (meaning 'Five Lands') is a collection of charming towns perched on the rocky Mediterranean coast. They're only a couple kilometers apart and you can take a short train or hike between them. So, of course, I accepted the invitation! We took the train Tuesday morning from Torino down through Genoa and changed trains in a town called La Spezia. Here the weather started to worry us a little bit--while we were waiting for the train in La Spezia, a full-blown thunderstorm, complete with hail, descended on us. But by the time we made it to the first of Cinque Terra's five towns, the weather was perfect.

Here's Helen (left) and Caroline (right), contemplating the threatening weather behind them.

Like I said, the weather cleared up. Here's Riomaggiore, the first of the five towns we visited. Four of the five towns go right down to the water and all of the towns have buildings almost stacked on top of each other!

Here's the coastline that the few Riomaggiore inhabitants get to enjoy every day (along with thousands of English-speaking tourists in the summer season). Although you can't see them in this picture, the other four towns are between us and that distant promontory.

No cars are allowed in the Cinque Terra towns. The only vehicles visible are the train and boats like this, parked on the road that leads down to the sea.

Of course we had to have a little adventure. Helen dared me to climb out on to the rocks of the breakwater. If you look really closely, you can see that the cuffs of my pants are wet. Lindsey's not quite so coordinated as she used to be; I had wet shoes for the rest of the day!

This is a beautiful picture taken by Caroline of the waves crashing over the breakwater. The rocks where Helen and I climbing are just to the left of these; for those concerned with safety, we were well away from the big waves.

After spending a little time at Riomaggiore, we hiked to the next town along the Via dell'Amore, or the Way of Love. This path provides an easy stroll along the coast, along a graffiti-laden walkway that is a popular place for engagements. I learned that it's an Italian tradition for a couple to buy a padlock, lock it over something, and throw away the key when they become engaged. Isn't that sweet?

Of course, things can get carried away. It's not hard to figure out that this bench is the spot for proposals.

Graffiti is encouraged along the Via dell'Amore as a way for visitors and couples to leave their mark. So, swept along by the tide of tradition and the urgings of my travelling companions, I began my vandalism career.

Fifty years from now, we plan on returning and looking for this tiny pen-scratch proclaiming "Lindsey, Caroline, and Helen, March 24, 2009." We've now officially entered Cinque Terra history!

That's the end of Part 1. Stay tuned for the exciting vistas and dangerous adventures of Cinque Terra, Part 2!

Baking Bread

Hello everyone!
We've got lots of pictures to share from the past couple weeks, but I thought I'd start with some pictures from a Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago. Our friends, Debbie and Larry Peck, invited us over for dinner and Debbie, who is a great and energetic cook, volunteered to teach myself and two other girls (friends from church) how to make bread! Meanwhile, John and Larry sat around and commented on how good everything smelled.

The baking crew (left to right): Ally, Nicole, Me, and Debbie

Me learning proper kneading

The finished product! We learned how to make Honey Whole-Wheat, Focaccia, and English Muffin Bread

But the work wasn't finished. We also made chicken cacciatore for dinner, along with the desert in process below: a pudding-like brownie desert that was wonderful--Mom, it reminded me of your chuck-wagon cake.

And here's some of us enjoying the finished product. Hopefully I'll remember some of these techniques to try when we get home!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Feste del Cioccolato!

Sorry it's been a while since we've posted; March has been a quiet month. But we did manage to participate in a treasured local tradition. As some of you know, Torino is known for being the first place to invent solidified chocolate--as in a chocolate bar, as opposed to liquid chocolate, which used to be all the rage in the 16th and the 17th centuries. With that sort of history, it only makes sense that Torino would happily celebrate its heritage by having an Annual Chocolate Festival.

"Le Grand Feste del Cioccolato" consists of a collection of tents gathered in the Piazza Venezia--one of Torino's largest piazzas. Hopefully you can see some of the tents behind me!

To be brutally honest, it's hard to get chocolate in Torino without some sort of hazelnut flavoring. A local favorite is called 'gianduia,' which is usually just different types of chocolate and hazelnut but can occasionally become something more adventures. Below are gianduia spreads (I've counted at least eleven), all different flavors. If you blow up the picture, you can see the labels, some of which are easy to translate, such as 'Gianduia - Rhum.' Peperoncino is exactly what it sounds like: chocolate-hazelnut cream with chili pepper seasoning. Yum?

Here's John proudly showing off yet more chocolate. A key phrase to learn for an event like this is "Posso assagiare?" which means "Can I try (some)?" Most of sellers had sampler trays out for you but if they didn't, they were happy to share their product whenever you asked.

What follows is a series of optical allusions. Everything you see is made of chocolate. Everything. Even the armor.



Formal wear

Replica Roman armor

(Well, okay, maybe not the armor--that was at an outdoor market and taken largely for my brother Ryan's benefit.)

Breakfast with more salami

To finish the optical illusion series, here we have a chocolate kebab. On the top is what a real kebab looks like (roasted layers of meat cooked on a vertical spit, then shaved and put into a pita). On the bottom is the impostor (note the little sandwich on top).

And here's us with the Gianduia man.

That's all for today, ragazzi! We hope we've watered your appetite just a little bit! Love, John and Lindsey